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District 20A: Backer believes healthy jobs climate is key for state

GRACEVILLE -- Jay Backer wants to pack twice the punch in St. Paul.

Backer and his twin brother, Jeff, are both campaigning for the state Legislature. Jay is running as the Republican-endorsed candidate against Andrew Falk for the District 20A House seat. Jeff is seeking the state Senate seat for District 9 against Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon.

Jeff Backer has served as mayor of Browns Valley for the past 10 years. This is Jay Backer's first foray into partisan politics, but he's no stranger to public serivce.

He has served on the Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley School Board for nine years, seven as its chair. He's also been a volunteer emergency medical technician for 15 years.

But the first thing he wants to tell voters is that he is an entrepreneur and business owner, and wants to promote a "healthy jobs climate'' in Minnesota.

"We need a better jobs climate,'' said Backer, quickly repeating his campaign mantra: "Jobs, jobs, and jobs.''

Backer, 43, operates an Internet-based business in partnership with his brother. They sell aboveground swimming pools, ATVs, go-karts, portable heaters and other products, with the majority of their sales occurring outside the state.

Being an entrepreneur "is in the blood,'' Backer said. His father was a business owner and his grandfather a farmer. Backer is a 1985 Beardsley-Valley High School graduate and 1990 graduate cum laude of St. Cloud State University with a bachelor's degree in public administration and economics. He met his wife, Michele, while in college. They are parents to five children, ages 9 to 16.

Backer said the district is losing small businesses and the jobs they create to South Dakota. District 20A is on the state's western border, including all or parts of Big Stone, Lincoln, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties.

Backer said Minnesota needs to cut taxes to create a better business climate. Small businesses can't be asked to pay more taxes, he said.

The state also needs to streamline and not over-regulate, he added. He charges that some state agencies -- such as the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency -- have overreached.

The need to balance the next budget in the face of a large projected deficit will be the biggest job facing legislators. Backer believes it can be done through cuts alone.

He's not specific on where he would make all the cuts needed, but said the state needs to "set priorities'' and live within its means as would a family.

"You are not going to grow into prosperity by deficit spending,'' he said.

Backer also vows to be a fighter for rural Minnesota, and said he would tackle many of the state's budget issues from this perspective. He wants the state to maintain Local Government Aid payments to rural communities, but would eliminate the payments to Minneapolis and St. Paul to reduce the overall cost of the program to taxpayers.

He argues for a similar approach to meet rural Minnesota's transportation needs. Rural residents pay more per capita in gas taxes since they drive greater distances, and should receive a greater share of state transportation dollars as a consequence, he argues.

He also believes the state should equalize education funding, with more dollars allocated to rural districts.

Backer charges that his opponent has not done enough to fight the closing of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, and that he lost jobs in his district by opposing the Big Stone II power plant.

Backer wants to see Minnesota adopt a residency requirement before public assistance is available and says he is pro-life.

Jay Backer

Age: 43

Family: Wife, Michele; five children.

Occupation: Co-owns Internet-based business selling aboveground pools, ATVs, go-karts and portable heaters

Education: Beardsley Valley High School; bachelor's degree in public administration and economics, St. Cloud State University.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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